Costume shop stars on Channel 4

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Inside Lili Bizarre ©

Inside Lili Bizarre ©

Staff at a family-run fancy dress shop in Liverpool have become the stars of a Channel 4 television show about bargain shopping and businesses.

Lili Bizarre was last week featured on the new series ‘Britain’s secret shoppers’ which helps customers to get the best deals they can when shopping, along with helping businesses to promote themselves.

After reporting a loss last year, the shop welcomed the help of the programme’s business expert Justin Preston, who first disguised himself as a customer and secretly filmed his experience shopping with help from owner Lili as he dressed up as John Lennon.

Justin noticed the shop could be improved through changing how they display items and also introducing an offer to encourage costume party hosts to bring their friends to Lili Bizarre for their outfits. The deal means for every 15 costumes hired, each person gets a 10% discount and the host gets a free costume.

Gary Wakefield, who is Lili’s son and runs the business, described the offer as a “slow burner” and the shop is yet to have anyone take them up on it after it began in January.

Gary told JMU Journalism: “I don’t think anyone in retail can say they haven’t been affected by the recession, but there are different factors including the internet and our location.

“The heart of Liverpool has moved with Liverpool One and there’s not a lot we can do about that. We’ve just got to promote ourselves differently and the TV was one of those ways which would normally cost thousands of pounds but we got it for free. We even got paid for it, we got £1 each! It was part of a nominal fee that they had to pay to form a contract.”

Created in 1987, the shop’s first home was inside quirky shopping centre Quiggins before it moved to the eccentric pink and cream building on Hardman Street 10 years ago. The shop has an eclectic collection of vintage clothes and elaborate costumes to hire and buy, along with accessories and wigs.

Gary said: “It used to just sell vintage clothes, but then someone asked if they could hire because they were going to a bad taste party and we’re skint so couldn’t afford to pay. It just ballooned from there. We hired out 50s, 60s and 70s clothes and then it progressed into what it is today.

“The crew enjoyed filming here; they loved it and loved the shop. They all said the same thing that we’ve got a great thing here and a great product we just have to show it, display it and market it a little bit differently.”

The episode can be viewed on 4oD here.

About Rachael Bentham, JMU Journalism